Darren Quach shared the details behind the production of Hondi Chibi in Blender.
Hi everyone! My name is Darren Quach, I am a concept artist based out of Los Angeles, California. I have been working mostly on games over the past 19 years. I attended Art Center College of Design as an illustration student and there began my journey into the entertainment design world. I have helped ship titles including the Ratchet and Clank and Resistance series on the PlayStation consoles, Hawken, and various other titles. Currently, I am freelancing and teaching, as well as pursuing personal work which will help me level up.
For most of my career, my responsibilities have been to create 2D imagery and providing concepts as an in-house artist to help push forward the project’s visual direction and support our teams with production artwork from which they will model from. In recent years, I’ve taken up more roles and tasks which include map production using Unreal editor, art direction, and some game design work. Currently, I am exploring 3D to supplement and evolve my workflow. I was amazed at the work of my 3D colleagues I spent so much time alongside in the trenches, so you can say I’ve had 3D in my heart for a long time. My traditional 2D design background has helped me navigate between various tasks during production, and I am able to use that 2D foundation when experimenting with 3d tools. In late 2018, I took Heavypoly/ Vaughan Ling’s online Blender course. The class together with the general Blender community helped provide the runway to push my efforts forward.
Hondi Chibi was conceived to be a toy-like, yet believable vehicle like a diecast model kit that you can hold in your hands. It started as a placeholder vignette from another scene that I comped. As you can see in the image, the blockout communicated a basic idea of scale and proportion and color.
I had been looking at and drawing a lot of car studies and thought building out the truck might be interesting to explore further. While I was growing up, I was inspired by art wizards such as Katsuhiro Otomo, Shinji Aramaki, Ron Cobb, and technical illustrators such as Kevin Hulsey to name a few. Even now as I draw traditionally, artists like them influence my approach and sensibility, and I aspire to achieve the same sense of thoroughness in their art. Here are some recent sketch examples created with pen and ink:
The initial goals of this piece were to test the poly modeling workflow I recently learned and apply it to the Chibi. Most of the model was created using poly modeling with booleans and some subdivision modifiers (for the cab). Once the initial form is set, booleans were used to cut out parts for the grille and headlights. Below you can see the highlighted Booleans. Similarly, I cut out the doors in order to imply function and the cabin interior.
During the Production
At this point, my actions led to unintended consequences. Once the major forms were in place and cabin was cut out, I felt the Chibi needed to be explored further and “feature creep” quickly settled in. Once the doors were built, the rest of the cabin and dash needed addressing. And since I was building out the cabin, why not address the chassis and bed? What kind of suspension would be appropriate? And after that, the engine, drivetrain, steering etc. There are a few key components still missing which I may revisit at a later date, but for now, it’s done.
As a fan of the subject matter, I had a lot of fun researching and studying general automobile construction which was then reapplied to the model. The research took up a large chunk of time and led me everywhere from Pinterest to Google images to various enthusiast websites. While I am not an automotive expert, reading into it helped me make better design decisions as I continued work on the Chibi, as each component was lightly researched and modeled, using HeavyPoly’s Blender toolset.
The Chibi color scheme was intended to feel lighthearted from the beginning and to push the toy-like quality of the design. Once again, it had to feel believable yet toy-like. Starting with the Tiffany paint, I was curious what it might look like with a softer shell appearance. This was made using the Blender principle bsdf shader further streamlined with the Heavypoly toolset. Instead of pushing more metallic, I chose to stylize it with a low metallic/high roughness value and adjusted the clearcoat settings to give it a bit of sheen.
This stylization choice allowed me to set the material contrast against the more metallic parts- such as the internals and others such as the rubber for the tires, or glass- all adjustments made with the principled bsdf settings.
Getting to the final look required me to balance where I put my polygons vs where the material was doing the work – basically using the two to drive towards a certain look and feel. Below you can see I let the polygons heavily support the rubber material. The trick was to create an appropriate amount of geometry to get the lighting to play off the surface in a visually pleasing way:
Further adjusting the AO settings allowed parts of the mesh to receive a soft gradient.
All of the elements were tied together with Blender 2.8 Eevee rendering engine to achieve the final look that you see. Because this project’s focus was on modeling and automotive research, rendering output was secondary. With Eevee, the viewport is able to get a visually appealing look, and from my experience, feels similar to real-time in-game engines.
The Hondi Chibi started out as a simple modeling project to apply what I recently learned, and morphed into a research-intensive project. As a concept designer, I am fascinated with world building and curious about how and why things are built. Working with my 3d colleagues over the years has helped foster this philosophy, and combining the 2 disciplines feels like an exciting evolution. Thanks again Kirill Tokarev for this chance to share with you my Hondi Chibi, thanks to Vaughan Ling at Heavypoly and the Blender community for the help, and thank you for reading!